Before reading a book on training your dog, or studying about your dog’s breed, first you should learn to interpret your dog’s language. If you don't know what your dog is saying, no matter how much you read, understanding your dog will be complicated.
I’m sure you’re thinking that you know perfectly well what dogs are saying, you’ve had a dog all your life. Well, allow me to doubt that – because I’m not referring to tail wagging, ear movements, or whatever is typically said about how dogs communicate. What I’m talking about is much more subtle, it’s about details which are often easy to miss.
First of all you need to know that dogs ALWAYS seek to AVOID CONFLICT. They are sociable beings who seek to get along, and they have a language and series of signals called calming or appeasement signals, which they use to avoid conflicts and for many other things.
What Are Calming Signals?
Calming Signals: many species use a common body language; it is specialized and very developed in dogs, and based on body movements with a specific purpose.
What Are They For?
1. Communication: Dogs signal to avoid conflict or to prevent potential conflict.
2. Self-Calming: When in a stressful situation, dogs use their signals to help calm themselves. When you take a photo of a dog, you can tell he feels intimidated when he turns his head, moves away, turns his back towards you, or yawns.
3. Calming others: In order to calm another individual, meaning a dog, cat or person. Being social animals, they are very good at this.
4. Ritual greeting: Dogs always use calming signals when greeting and to be polite: curving their bodies, never greeting face to face, smelling each other’s butts, never staring, urinating on a tree which is then urinated on by the other dog.
What Are Some Calming Signals?
Yawning, turning their heads away, turning their backs, smelling the ground, positioning themselves between dogs or people who are too close to each other, looking away, moving slowly, standing still, curving their bodies in greeting (a face-to-face greeting is very rude), urinating before or after a greeting, pretending to do something just to divert attention.
Blinking and avoiding eye contact: These typical gestures indicate “I’ve done something wrong,” and are the signals your dog uses to tell you she knows you’re angry and does not want a confrontation.
Licking his lips/nose: If you are too close or if he feels uncomfortable for any reason, this is the signal a dog will use. You’ll see this signal used intensely when a dog is being scolded.
“Splitting”: Whenever there might be a conflict between dogs or with a person, there is always a dog who will get between them to avoid a conflict or “split” them apart.
Sniffing the ground: This is one of the calming signals used most often to calm another dog or a person. When you see a dog owner calling a dog with an angry or authoritative tone, watch what the dog does!
In closing, I’d like to recommend a book that contains all the canine language, is easy to read, short and inexpensive: “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals” by Turid Rugaas.